Every August, Salvatore Pepe would gather his family, buy eight to 10 bushels of tomatoes and continue the canning tradition his mother started decades ago.
'This is a good way to remember our parents and the tradition,' he would tell his family, his sister, Leonida Pepe of New Jersey, said.
Spending hours creating a custom calendar on which every family birthday, anniversary or notable date was recognized with a picture, Pepe would make three calendars: one for his own 45-member family, one for his wife’s 16-member family and one for both families.
'He enjoyed family,' said his wife, Cathy Ng-Pepe of Elmhurst. 'He enjoyed doing things that would bring family together.'
Working on the 97th floor of the first Trade Center tower attacked on Sept. 11, Pepe, 45, was an assistant vice president in the global technology service of Marsh & McLennan.
'We kept watching the news,' his wife said of that day she spent in front of the television with her father and her 18-month-old son, Salvatore Loong Pepe. 'We kept looking for him as part of the group making their way home.'
They never saw him, and they never heard from him again.
Born six months after his family arrived in New York from Italy, Pepe was the youngest of seven and the only one born in the United States. In 1997, he married Cathy Ng, who had emigrated from Malaysia.
Although Pepe was an Italian Catholic and Ng-Pepe was a Chinese Buddhist, both respected each other’s culture, Ng-Pepe said, remembering a Buddhist altar table her husband built for her family to honor their dead relatives.
But Pepe’s family said they will remember him most for his unselfish love. 'He never thought of himself,' Ng-Pepe said. 'He would never ask help for himself.'
When his mother, who died in 1992, couldn’t take care of herself anymore because of cancer, he devoted time to her. 'He would bathe her, feed her,' said Leonida Pepe. 'That’s so rare.'
Salvatore Pepe is also survived by four other sisters, Genoveffa Palmieri of Westchester County, Rose Occhicone of Westchester County, Anne Allen of New Jersey and Patrizia Davis of New Jersey, and a brother, Antonio Pepe of Queens.
(c) 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission. www.newsday.com